62: Putting Out FiresMature

Keon and I made slow but constant progress in our efforts to extinguish all light from the cave.  The Alfar were bravely providing distraction for us, though they made little headway in truly crippling the giant’s power.  It seemed that, no matter what they threw at him, he remained solid and sure.

An idea came to me quite suddenly.  “Wait!” I cried.  My unbridled reaction wouldn’t come without castigation.  The giant heard my distinctly feminine voice bounce toward him from the now-distant corner of the cave where I crouched.  He wound his ghastly head away from his current challengers and toward my direction.  Hostile stomping was heard but unseen on his approach in the gloom, and my time ran thin.  

“And what did you go and do that for?” Keon seethed.

“I’m sorry!” I shrieked, then repeated in a whisper, “I’m so sorry.  But I’ve thought of something.”  As I explained faintly, Keon gripped my arm and led me quietly and swiftly to a less conspicuous area.  “We’ve been putting out fires, but what if the contrast of the heat against the cold is just what we need?  What if the frost giant has a weakness to fire?”

I imagine Keon probably shook his head, but it was impossible to see.  “It’s been tested.  Had you not been so frantic, you might have noticed how many times the elves have tried to throw a torch at him.  He does seem to have an aversion, but he dodges much better than you’d think.  They haven’t hit him once, dear.”

Stepping out onto the frozen lake, we approached another light on the ground, but this one was a faintly glowing lantern that had been dropped on its side.  I shuddered at the sight of the frosted corpse beside it.  “But wait-- it’s a lantern!  That means it’s got oil in it.  All we need to do is tie--” my voice was cut short by a frustrated and mighty roar.  Perhaps he had heard me again.  The ice beneath us trembled with the giant’s running footsteps.  He had certainly heard me again.

“Come on, follow me!” Keon yelled above the ruckus.  He had taken off at a slipping sprint, and I froze with fear when I realized I had lost track of him completely, having foolheartedly decided to bend down to pick up the lantern before following.  Had my mind not been clouded with fear, I would have just run away any direction I could, but it seemed so impossible now.  Surely my mistake would be fatal.

My legs refused to move as I heard the giant closing in on me.  “Where are you, girl?” he growled.  “I’ve been promised a nice bounty for your pretty little head, and I intend to get it.”

I heard him take a deep breath, and I was able to make out the blue glow on his throat yet again.  He wasn’t twenty feet from me.  I saw him as he looked down with his icy blue eyes, using the light from his body to locate me.  He blew a gale from his jaws into the air above me, and as I finally found the strength to move my legs, I narrowly escaped impalement from one of the icicles that came raining down.  Suppressing a scream from the incident had proven impossible, and the giant seemed all the more roused.  I felt the sharp pain of a scrape on my arm, but now was not a time to dwell on pain.  The spear-like icicles had penetrated the icy covering over the lake, and I felt a chilling puddle forming at my feet as I began to sink.  I scrambled away from the wreckage, carefully toting my crossbow in one arm and keeping the lamp dry with the other.  I rose to my feet and found my back now set firmly against a large stone.  Everyone, it seemed, had disappeared altogether from my side.

It was time to put my hunch to the test.  There was nothing else I could do; the frost giant knew where I was, and he wasn’t about to back down.  I ripped a dry strip of cloth from my cloak frantically, but I lost my balance as the giant caused the ground to quake again with his advancement.  The glass surrounding the lantern broke into shards as I dropped it.  With shaking hands, I reached through the broken glass, cutting my lower thumb in the process, and drew out the chamber that contained the oil.  Most of the fuel had either burned away or spilled, but amid the tremors of the giant’s footsteps, I managed to wet the strip of cloth as best I could.  

“Thought you were going to give me more trouble, to be honest,” I heard the giant boom as he took his final steps toward me, patting his axe in his hands.  “Arrows are like splinters to me, and yet they seem to be the elves’ top weapon of choice.  What a shame.”  I tried to tune out the giant’s words as I wrapped the cloth around the head of the bolt that was loaded in my crossbow.  Then came the final step, to run it over the barely-burning lantern’s wick and hope it took to the flame.  A spark.  And then an all-out kindling of the oil and the cloth, a flaming bolt, and one last shot at defeating my adversary.

I looked up at the giant as I heard his final stomp come to an end.  He towered almost directly above me, regarding my enhanced weapon.  “You think the light can still fight the darkness?”  The giant’s cold words perspired on my face.  “I’ll put out your spark in a single breath.”

I realized that, when I had decided to act on my intuition, when I had become determined to fight until the last moment, I had forgotten my fears.  What did they matter when all that was left was a simple choice?  My aim steadied as I raised it to meet the now-glowing throat of the frost giant.  Just before my foe was able to complete his inhalation, his breath was cut short.  The blue of the magical glow and the orange of the flame collided violently, and the giant’s throat was pierced.  Both lights extinguished in a flash, and the cave became totally eclipsed.  Keon must’ve put out all the other flames in his absence.  Amid the darkness, I heard a choking, then a gargling, and then a wave of warm water crashed over me.  All fell silent.

“Keon?  Anybody?  Is anyone there?” I cried into the emptiness.

To my intense relief, a number of voices sounded in reply.  Several elves crowded toward my voice, and one of them managed to relight one of the torches after a few minutes.  Keon was not present, and neither, it seemed, was the body of the frost giant.  Nothing remained of the creature but his pale horns, soaked fur clothing, battle axe, and… was that a letter by his pocket?

The End

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